I admit I only skimmed the article, which was about things like remnants of brick, but I find this astonishing. I understand that the origins of these figures are hard to pin down, and that clearly much restoration or alteration may have taken place over the years – but what seems the strongest reason against the 17th century theory for me is their aesthetic.
The article rather lamely suggests that the Cerne figure’s priapic state is some sort of satire against Puritans or whatever – but I can’t really believe that someone in that age could have got away with such a stark image. And why, more importantly, would they have given an aesthetic with such an ancient feel to it? The Wilmington figure is weirder, less appreciable within a context of artistic development, perhaps, but the Cerne one in particular just doesn’t look like something anyone would have created in the 17th century.
Perhaps I’m just disappointed and defensive because I want to believe these sites really are ancient. But I still do.